Glacier

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Glacier 

“Future generations are not going to ask us what political party were you in. They are going to ask what did you do about it, when you knew the glaciers were melting.” Martin Sheen

 This wasn’t supposed to be my first glacier experience.  In New Zealand, we drove for several hours  to Mount Cook. I was looking forward to taking a helicopter to the top of that glacier. I was ready. I had my crampons  which I lugged from Los Angeles. The next morning it was raining, windy, and very foggy. It was not the kind of rain that was going to clear up in an hour.  It was animals lining up in pairs rain. So we never made it to the glacier. 

Iceland lingers on the edge of the Arctic Circle so I figured that my chances of seeing a glacier up close were better this time.  We start walking down the path and  groups of kids are walking by in clampons.

There is definitely an air of excitement.

. There are many glacial walks and tours in Iceland on the different glaciers.We are at Sólheimajökull, a glacial tongue that is rugged and riddled with ice caves, ridges and sink holes.

Blue ice and black volcanic rock appeared like a painting of colors upon the glacier with a matching grey sky. 

It felt surreal. It was another can Iceland get more amazing moment.

I was enchanted by the barren beauty. It’s impressive due to the way it descends down from Mýrdalsjökull  (fourth largest ice cap in Iceland). Beneath its thick surface is one of the country’s most infamous volcanoes Katla.

Our geologist Scott Burns,  points out  the effects of climate change. People who don’t  believe in climate change say the ice melting is normal but the rate of change is speeding up since 1990 in a way that has not been seen before in history.

Sólheimajökull is shrinking rapidly. A glacier lagoon at its base reveals how quickly it is receding, the length of an Olympic swimming pool every year.

It seems like this is already an irreversible consequence of climate change, and it may be gone within decades.

The next day we go to the new Glaciers and Ice Cave Exhibition at the Perlan Museum, just outside the city centre of Reykjavik  Here you can walk through the city’s first and only ice cave—a detailed replica of the inside of a glacier. If you think ice is all fun and games, the exhibition’s other interactive, ultra-modern displays present you with the more serious side of glaciers: the dangers of the volcanoes hidden beneath the ice caps, the effects of climate change and more.

Iceland”s glaciers are receding at an alarming rate. They lost their first one Okjokull and they created a memorial plaque to the glacier with a warning on it.

The future looks bad right now. We have exhausted our planet’s resources and polluted it beyond its capacity to clean itself. When they tell our civilization’s story, I want it to be that we cared and we tried our best to save it.

 

Fly safe,

JAZ

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What Not To Bring To New Zealand

What Not To Bring  To New Zealand

“Anything to declare? the customs inspector said.”Two pounds of uncut heroin and a manual of pornographic art,” Mark answered, looking about for Kitty. All Americans are comedians, the inspector thought, as he passed Parker through.” Leon Uris, Exodus

Biosecurity entering  New Zealand is definitely a bigger threat to them than terrorist security. New Zealand depends heavily on natural resources and agriculture and they have gone to great lengths to prevent foreign organisms or disease from entering and harming the country’s wildlife, plant life, marine life and health. I know this because I waited in a queue for two hours to be checked for fruit. If you carry an Australian or New Zealand passport, their line moves faster.

The best thing is not to bring anything with you that resembles food. I ate my almonds while I waited. The sign says no dairy products, honey products, meat, fish, fresh foods, anything not sealed in manufacturer’s packaging or any plant material including seeds, cuttings, and bulbs. Also excluded from entry are some medicinal or natural health products, especially anything unpackaged or without a full list of ingredients. You may also need to be wary of materials such as animal hide, bones or teeth etc. I really want to make some jokes here but I won’t because I was really annoyed about that wait.

If you are bringing outdoor equipment such as tramping boots, camping, fishing or diving gear, this also needs to be declared. It is also a good idea to make sure that your gear is clean, give it a good wash and clean off any debris, such as plant material or soil.

There are specially trained dogs at the airport to check for food. How specially trained does a dog have to be for that? There is an exhaustive list on the MPI  website of things that you cannot bring in. (Ministry for Primary Industries not Military Police Information as I originally thought)

Having an Arabic sounding last name when pronounced wrong, I’m used to being thoroughly checked for weapons and really did not understand the seriousness of this.  I did not declare the closed big bags of M and M peanuts, jelly bellys and vitamin C bars  in my luggage. It passed through the  food X-ray machine and no one went through my bags as they normally do. Apparently I look more like a terrorist then a candy smuggler. 

If you don’t declare any at risk goods you are immediately fined 400 NZ dollars and it can go up to 100,000 NZ dollars. So declare all food. I will next time also.They will decide if you can keep it or not. 

There is a big  interactive exhibit in the Wellington Museum called Catch the Invaders where you can pretend to be the MPI. I was finally able to comprehend the importance of this. New Zealand’s isolated geography has been helpful in keeping disease and pests out. Greater international trade, climate change and tourism makes it vulnerable to new pests and diseases that will affect their wildlife and economy. New Zealand is a beautiful country that still has vast areas of wilderness  and I understand now why they want to keep it that way. (photo Cordula Reins)

Fly safe,

JAZ

The Amazon Rainforest, Brazil

The Amazon Rainforest

“What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.”Mahatma Gandhi

As humans we tend to blame other people for our environmental problems. Most of the Amazon region is located in Brazil and having spent time there I have to talk about deforestation. Though each of us are responsible for creating the problem in the environment, caring for the Amazon is most critical for our survival.

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The Amazon Rainforest is the largest remaining tropical forest on our planet. It is home to one-third of the world’s species; one-fourth of the world’s fresh water; one fifth  of the world’s forests; forty-eight billion tons of carbon dioxide in its trees and two hundred indigenous and traditional communities.

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The Amazon is also one of the fastest changing ecosystems, largely as a result of human activities, including deforestation, forest fires, and, increasingly, climate change.

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The current deforestation is  driven by industrial activities and large-scale agriculture. By the 2000s more than three-quarters of forest clearing in the Amazon was for cattle-ranching.Vast areas of rainforest were felled for cattle pasture and soy farms, drowned for dams, dug up for minerals, and bulldozed for towns and colonization projects. At the same time, the proliferation of roads opened inaccessible forests to settlement by poor farmers, illegal logging, and land speculators.

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The  Emilio Goeldi  Museum is a research institute related to the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI).  It was founded in 1866 in the city of Belém, in the state of Para.

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Since its creation, the museum activities have been divided up between the scientific study of natural and socio-cultural systems in the Amazon area, scientific communication, the diffusion of knowledge and collections from the region and formation. All the results obtained in these fields make the Emilio Goeldi  Museum one of the most important research centers in Brazil.

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The museum is composed of three different places: a zoological and botanical park in the city of Belém, a research campus on the outskirts of the city and a scientific station in the Caxiuanã National Forest.

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The Park has more than two thousand species of plants and around six hundred animals that are native to the Amazon region and seems to be a popular school trip.

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Brazil is taking steps to save the Amazon rainforest.

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Since 2004 there was a seventy per cent decline in deforestation. In 2012 Brazil’s forest code was updated for landowners to protect eighty per cent of the rainforest. Some countries followed but not many. Different Brazilian states had different outcomes. It is not a downward trend. In 2013 Para’s deforestation had doubled and in 2014 it was the lowest of the Brazilian states.

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Greed, economy, state and government regulations seem to play a part in the reversal of the trend. The most obvious explanation was the change in national policy – first to sharply restrict deforestation, then to loosen the restrictions a bit.

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Saving the environment requires all of us. We can’t expect the Brazilians to take care of it for us while we drive our cars or put chemicals in the air. It requires us all to be well informed citizens of the world. What is happening in the Amazon affects all of us  and we should be aware of what is going there. We have one quest and we need to do it with compassion and not blame for each other. I believe that what we do makes a difference. I can only hope the rest of the world feels the same way.

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Fly safe,

JAZ